The movie itself was a little long, and a little overly dramatic. But having heard the story of the Titanic in primary school, he couldn’t help but be fascinated to see the scenes involving the captain and crew, and the scene with the hero and heroine sailing through the last sunset honestly made his breath catch, made him think of how the sky rushed past him when he literally flew, and how much he still sometimes felt how the girl clearly did in that scene. Also the scene during the music playing, of the woman and her two children doomed to go down with the ship, nearly made him cry. He thought the movie would’ve been better had it had more scenes like that, with people not involved in the central love story.
At last it was over, and as the credits rolled, Harry found himself saying, “I didn’t get that last scene. Was she dying or something?”
“I think it was a dying dream,” said Hermione. “Or the two of them reuniting in the afterlife.”
“Why’d she throw the necklace into the ocean, though?!” Ron demanded. “What good is it going to do anyone there? This movie was a very silly movie with some very stupid people in it.”
“Well, the stupid people being stupid was the point, I think,” said Hermione. Ron looked at her crossly, but she then said, “You’re right, though; much of that was silly.”
There hadn’t been that many people in the movie theatre, and Harry noticed almost all of them were gone. “So what do we do next?” he asked. “It’s still only half past four or so.”
“Try to get a magical newspaper?” said Hermione. “We’ve been neglecting the news since we left Britain, and there’s probably at least some significant events that have happened. Although since they’re about the host a World Cup, most of the magical newspapers are going to have headlines related to that. I think they sell them in this place we can get to from near the owlery. If we get there after five we can get the evening edition.”
They left the movie theatre as the woman singing about how her heart would go on gave way to instrumental music that reminded Harry of something he’d heard somewhere, expect he couldn’t exactly remember what or when. Or maybe it was the song itself he had heard. When they’d been sitting down, he’d heard someone else there talk about how it had been on the radio all the time since December; maybe he and Hermione had heard it playing through someone’s window. He thought about asking her, but he didn’t want to bring those memories up.
It had gotten cool outside. Harry had been aware, of course, that the seasons here were the opposite of what they were at home, but it still caught him by surprise. He didn’t like what that reminded him of, either. He wondered if, for the rest of his life, the cold would make him think of his most recent winter. That could be a major problem, unless he moved away to somewhere warm.
He looked between Ron and Hermione, since she’d experienced that whole winter with him, and even he’d been there for a bit of it. If they were thinking the same thing, they showed no sign of it. Though Hermione was in that way she got sometimes, where she had a task and would focus on it, striding forward through the Australian afternoon while they scurried after her, hoping she knew what buses they needed to take.
She did, of course. The bus ride passed with her poring further over maps of the routes and ignoring any attempts Harry and Ron made to talk to her. Eventually they gave up and Ron spent the rest of it talking about who he thought had probably made the Scottish World Cup team, since they hadn’t managed to find out yet. “Most of the teams are announced by now,” he said, “although I think the United States might be announcing today; they’re always late.”
At about ten past five they got off the bus, having ridden past the innocent semi-boarded up building in which the public owlery was hidden five minutes earlier. Hermione led them to a vacant lot at the end of the block. It had a half-built fence stretching out halfway each way from the end corner, and when they stepped behind it they were hidden from the street and from most people on the sidewalk. There was mostly overgrown grass on the ground, but also two slats of wood that looked like they might have been signs once. Especially since on one of them was written “North,” and on the other was written, “South.”
“They don’t have a big place like Diagon Alley here in Brisbane,” she explained to them. “I think there are a handful of towns in Australia that have those kind of big places, but it’s not the sort of country where all the magical inhabitants can get to a big city that easily anyway, so they’ve got to have an alternative for them. So mostly they have these much smaller squares of stores. There are two here, and I know there’s a news stand in the south square. Take a hold of this.” She picked up the piece of wood that said “South” on it, and Harry and Ron each took hold of it too. “In,” she whispered. That obviously triggered the Portkey, because instantly they were being yanked forward into the whirlwind.
A moment later they landed on a plot of soft sand, and found themselves facing small knot of people who were obviously wizards and witches. “Finally,” one of them sighed, and held out her hand. Hermione handed over the Portkey.
As they got out of the sandlot and stopped to shake the sand out of their shoes, Harry took a glance around. The square was made of flat shale, and was big enough for what looked like a dozen shops to surround it. He looked from one called Brush & Seeds, to one with a large broomstick on top the name of which he couldn’t make out, to one called Parchment which was very obviously a book store, with a rack of books on display in front of the door. It wasn’t packed to the point it would be hard to navigate, but there were a lot of people there, especially around the news stand in the centre.
They made it halfway to the newstand before being accosted. “I would just like to say,” said a breathless witch with crazy frizzly hair to Harry, “that I must thank you very much for destroying the menace of Europe. We Australians may have thought we were safe from him, here on the opposite side of the world, but the smart ones among us know we wouldn’t have forever. We know everyone, no matter where they live, owe you a debt. So thank you, from all of us, a million times.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said awkwardly, and tried not to look annoyed as two more people promptly flocked up to them.
They did get to the newsstand eventually, but which time he’d been advised to buy two different newspapers. The United States had indeed announced its World Cup team, and headlines to that effect topped most of the papers for sale. Most of them, Harry assumed, were Australian, and he quickly spotted two with names that identified them as being specific to Brisbane, and another called The Queensland Parchie. But he also spotted The Daily Prophet on display, next to something called The New York Ghost. “That should probably mention something about the Scottish team in it,” said Ron.
“After we’ve read through the important news,” said Hermione. “Hmm, they have The Quibbler too. I don’t know if they’re still being useful…”
“Let’s buy it anyway,” said Harry. If nothing else, they might get a laugh. He thought Hermione could do with one after these past two days.
He went with the Parchie, since he’d been told it contained good information about the weather, buying it along with The Quibbler. He was uncomfortably aware of the fact that everyone was watching the Boy Who Lived and Also Just Defeated Voldemort buy The Quibbler. Hey, he told himself, it had a better reputation now. That was probably why it was so prominent on the stand.
They took their two purchases to one of the clump of benches near the sand. As they sat down, Harry noticed one witch look at him, then turn and whisper to her companion, but she didn’t approach him.
He gave Ron The Quibbler, and himself took a look at the weather page. According to one wizard who’d talked to them, it would actually change even as the people making the forecast changed it where they were making it. Right now it was predicting cooler temperatures for the rest of the week and no rain, but more than one windy day.
Hermione flipped the Prophet over to read the story below the fold, and though The Quibbler was open on the latter’s lap, Harry and Ron found themselves reading the names of the American team upside down, Ron whispering to Harry details about the various players. The story also got quotes from various members of the British and Irish teams, so they found out the Irish Chasers who had won the previous Cup were all back, the highlight of the Scottish team was their youngest Chaser, Namir Uswardi (“But we all knew he’d be on the team already, anyway,” Ron commented), and that they’d surprised a bit by choosing as their main Seeker Alice McClellan.
“There’s whispers some of the Death Eaters may try to avoid time in Azkaban by testifying against others,” said Hermione. “The Ministry may have even entered seriously negotiations with some, possibly as many as a dozen, thought the Prophet claims to have no knowledge of whom.”
Harry had the feeling three of those would be the Malfoys. Perhaps Molly Weasley’s response to the letter Hermione had sent her today would even be preceded by some sort of missive to him, either from Narcissa Malfoy or prompted by her actions. He’d deal with that when the time came, he supposed.
“They also found about thirty likely all Muggle-borns dead in a mass grave,” she continued, turning grim. “Killing Curse on all of them. They can try to determine if they were killed by the wands of anyone they currently have in custody, though right now they’re still trying to identify everyone. Seventeen names so far, they’ve got them all printed here…” She recited them. Harry didn’t recognize any of them, though he saw a reaction from Ron to the name of Emma Hortington. “She was an old friend of my mum’s,” he explained. “She even visited the Burrow a few times when I was young, and I think she attended Bill and Fleur’s wedding too.”
“The Ministry has hinted they’ll set more trial dates next week,” said Hermione, “and they’ve got a few more people confirmed as alive who managed to hide in Ireland. That’s pretty much it for the news except for the World Cup teams. The English and Scottish teams are both going to be here in Australia within the next two weeks, possibly setting up camp in the Outback, near where half the group matches are going to be played. I understand fans occasionally go there to watch that sort of thing, but officials frown on it for obvious reasons. It’s probably not practical for us to go anyway.”
The boys turned to their own papers then. Harry found little in the Parchie besides what Hermione had already said and Australian news. But soon Ron began to chuckle. “What?” Harry asked.
“Did you know,” Ron grinned, “that when Grindelwald escaped from MACUSA in the late 1920s, he planted secret stashes of gold up and down the east coast of North America? Mostly in Florida, according to one theory, but another one puts them along some of the common flying routes that go from Britain to the States through the Artic. Since a lot more wizards used those routes than usual last year, they’re looking for stories from people who think they found some of them.
They’re looking for more general stories too, though,” he said. “Real stories, I think, about people who flew those routes, and especially what information they have about who’s alive and who’s dead. They did a bit of that before Luna was taken, trying to get that kind of information to people as much as they could get away with. I suppose they might continue that for as long as they have to.”
“I hope so,” said Hermione. “Ah, the Portkey’s available.”
Still, he hadn’t been there since right after his first year at Hogwarts, when a week into the summer Dudley had needed to go, so he’d had to go too. His teeth had been in far better shape than Dudley’s, and Dudley had gotten even angrier when he’d ended up suffering much more than his cousin had. That hadn’t ended well for anyone. Harry supposed being able to clean one’s teeth with magic, which most of them had learned to do by the end of their first year, helped keep them in better shape. But of course he’d still had to use a toothbrush, and an old and ratty one, during summers with the Dursleys, and he suspected that hadn’t worked as well.
All in all, he couldn’t help but be nervous when he was in that dental chair. Even telling himself he’d been through things far worse didn’t help as much as he’d thought it would. This was just too reminiscent of the time before all that, involuntarily bringing back how he’d felt about things then. There was even an anxious moment when he half-expected to hear Dudley complaining in the waiting room.
It helped take him back to the current time, though, when he heard a voice with a thick Australian accent, saying, “I can still get started on him. Might take a bit, right?”
Craig was a large and jovial sort of bloke, with a dark buzzcut, and a hot, calloused hand with which he shook Harry’s and introduced himself. He was quite dismayed to hear that Harry hadn’t been to the dentist for six years. When he looked into Harry’s mouth, he said, “Count yourself lucky, my boy. You could be a lot worse. But I’m afraid this isn’t going to be too nice.”
“It’s all right,” Harry tried to reassure him. Most of what he’d experienced this last year hadn’t been too nice either, after all.
He started with the metal picks, scraping the backs of Harry’s teeth. It was, as he’d warned, not too nice, but Harry endured. It would be over when it was over, he reminded himself, and he knew it would be. This was simply the price he had to pay until then.
“And you came in during the wrong time for the Wilkinses to be at their best, I’m afraid,” Craig continued. “It’s a crazy story, but you probably should know it because I’m not entirely sure she’s not going to show up today; they’re not answering too many questions about her…did you know for a year I thought they’d never had any children? Turns out they had a daughter, and they thought she’d died when she was only a few days old, but actually there was a mix-up, and two days ago she showed up on their doorstep and revealed she was still alive!”
Harry made a vague noise he hoped sounded appropriately shocked. He supposed that had been the best explanation for their suddenly having a daughter the Grangers had been able to think up.
Then he didn’t have to talk, because Craig was scraping the back of his teeth hard enough to make his head quiver. “You poor boy, someone your age really shouldn’t have to go through this. Her name’s Hermione. Hermione Granger; she insists on keeping the last name of the people who raised her. I suppose she really has two sets of parents, now. Can’t be an easy situation for anyone. But this is a bit of a shock, of course, and I think Monica’s even angry, I mean at the poor girl herself. Take a swig.”
Harry took a swig of the water Craig offered and spit into the adjoining basin. He remembered always wanting more water as a kid. He wouldn’t have minded it now either.
“From what I understand,” Craig continued, “she’s already of age, and she wants to go back to England and continue to live with the Grangers until she gets her own place. I wonder if she even understands how happy her parents are here; I hope she doesn’t expect them to follow her back there. There, swig again, and then I’ll get the toothbrush.” That was more than one kind of relief; hearing his words had felt a little weirder than Harry had been prepared for.
The whir of the toothbrush, of course, wasn’t that loud. But when it was against his teeth, Harry suddenly found it hard to hold still. He wasn’t even sure why he was so jumpy about it. It didn’t even remind him of anything. But it was just so jarring.
Distantly he found himself worrying if he’d ever be comfortable on a fast-moving broomstick again. He hadn’t really had time to try since the final battle.
He found himself feeling surprisingly indignant when Craig gave him too little water during the next pause. “That’s as much as you get,” he said, in a stern voice that Harry would’ve thought he was too old for. It was a pity he couldn’t tell the guy he shouldn’t talk to someone who had just defeated a Dark Lord that way.
By the time Craig was halfway done, Harry’s fingers were curled around the arms of the seat. At least he didn’t comment any further, just keep the mechanical toothbrush relentlessly moving around, leaving each of Harry’s teeth feeling like it had just been ground into. There was one moment he thought it was over, and then Craig moved the toothbrush over a spot Harry was pretty sure he’d done already and possibly did it all over again, he wasn’t sure.
But at last he put the thing away, and Harry took one last swig from the cup. He still felt like there was grit in his mouth, though, all hallowed out. He’d forgotten that feeling over the past six years, and he hadn’t missed it. It didn’t help matters that instead of getting to get up immediately, the way he had last time, he was told to remain where he was. “One of the Wilkinses should be coming it.”
Harry was relieved when it was Dr. Wendell Wilkins, as he supposed he ought to think of him as, rather than his wife. “I want to take a photo of your teeth,” he said. The dentist had done that during his last trip, so Harry knew the drill, although Dr. Wilkins explained it to him anyway. As he leaned over Harry’s mouth to put the uncomfortable cardboard in, he murmured, “We’ve been talking further. I’ve decided I’d like it if Hermione wrote to us before she comes back here, though I can’t promise her mother will be willing to read it.”
Harry wasn’t able at that moment to make more than an affirmative “ah-ah,” but he hoped his gladness was somehow visible.
He did wish he could say a little more, though. He wondered if her father knew that in second year, when Hermione had been outraged to learn there was a potion to cure cavities that was perfectly appropriate for their level but Snape wasn’t going to teach, she’d decided to learn it on her own. She’d spent much of her time in the Hospital Wing reading about it, and at the end of the year she’d taken the time out and brewed it. “I suppose there’s still a little part of me that wants to be just like my parents,” she’d laughed to him and Ron.
He didn’t, of course, know what she’d been through after modifying their memories, and Harry had the feeling Hermione was never going to tell them about that. Nor did he really know just how much her parents had lingered on Hermione’s mind. That, he suspected, she might never talk about to anyone.
The pictures were taken, and when Harry had those things out of his mouth, he actually started to think the ordeal was over. But then Dr. Wilkins came back in, and he said, “I’m afraid you have a cavity. You’re lucky in that it’s one we caught early. In fact, we don’t even have to treat it today. We could wait, and do it in June, when you’re back in Australia.”
Or he could just use the cavity-curing potion. Although that would require an explanation for Craig why he hadn't gotten it taken care of at either time. Also he remembered what Hermione had said about her parents feelings about teeth and magic. Maybe he could be nice and let him drill instead.
For a moment he was tempted to say wait on it. He’d already been through plenty that day. Besides, it would mean another chance to talk with him and his wife, see how they were coping with having their memories back once they’d had some time.
But when he thought about her, and how much pain she’d caused her daughter. There was obviously going to be a lengthy period of time involved in this where he wouldn’t be able to speak, and meanwhile he might get stuck listening to her say who knew what about Hermione, unable to offer any rebuttals no matter what ridiculous things she said.
Right now, he could hear her working on another patient, and she had a drill, which meant she was probably going to stay busy a while. So Harry said, “I’d prefer if you did it now.”
Numbing felt weird. It was a good thing, obviously, and Harry wondered why Madam Pomfrey hadn’t try to do some version of it that time she’d had to regrow all the bones in his arm, even if she could heal most injuries up quickly enough to not need to. But all the same, there was something unpleasant about having control of part of his mouth taken from him. He tried not to think about it, but he was stuck in that chair with nothing else to do.
Dr. Wilkins didn’t try to talk to him for the first part of it after he took the drill out. He was probably concentrating on what he was doing, and that was another good thing. Distantly, Harry heard the other drill stop, and his wife’s voice say, “There. All done. I’ll have a word with your mother now.” Her voice was softer than he’d heard it before, the sort of voice she should have still been talking to her daughter with.
“Almost there,” Dr. Wilkins finally said. For another minute or so after that, he was silent again. But then he said, “If you don’t mind, I’d like you to tell our daughter one more thing? Just…tell her that we both still love her, and we will no matter what. I finally got Monica to admit to that this morning.”
Personally, Harry thought that given they weren’t flying back to Britain they very next day, he could definitely have gotten himself into Hermione's company again and told her himself. But even though Dr. Wilkins then said, “All done,” and removed the drill, when he tried to move his mouth to speak, Harry discovered that he could not. “Don’t try to talk yet,” the dentist told him. “It’ll wear off eventually. Just tell her.” So Harry had to nod, and be grateful that he wasn’t currently expected to smile.
Ron and Hermione had wisely chosen not to accompany him to the dentist’s, choosing instead to take a look into the north side of the shopping area they’d gone to the previous day. Harry had to change buses at one point to get there, but he did it without too much trouble. He could’ve done without the confused stare of the second bus driver when he made no response to his greeting as he got on, just paying him the fare without speaking. It got him a couple more looks from the front of the bus, which felt far more aggravating than perhaps they should have. Everything felt tense. The lack of feeling in his mouth was making him feel it more in the rest of his body, his shoulders especially.
He still wasn’t too confident about his ability to do much with his mouth when he got off the bus and walked down the block, and he was greatly relieved to find Ron and Hermione waiting for him, sitting in the grass by the signs. He knew he definitely was not looking entirely normal, at least from up close, because when he got there Ron started, and demanded, “What happened, mate? Did you run into someone?!”
“No, Ron,” Hermione said hastily. “You had a cavity? A minor one, I hope? And they insisted on dealing with it?”
Harry could nod; his neck muscles were fine, but even that felt like a weird experience. “It’ll wear off soon,” Hermione assured him.
“Yeah, but what’s he going to do in the meantime? He looks like someone hit him with a Slackjaw Jinx! Can’t you do something to fix it?”
“Well,” Hermione took out her wand, and looked Harry’s head up and down, considering it. “I don’t know if I could make you feel normal again, Harry, but I could probably…”
But just then they were the swoop of air that came from a large group of people arriving by Portkey, and a moment later they were joined by eight strangers, five wizards with long beards and less than neat clothing and three witches holding very large cloth bags. Two of them were busy enough chattering with each other they didn’t immediately notice their company, but the other six were staring right at them. Too many that there would’ve been any chance none would recognize Harry, especially when the visible state of his face drew their attention to him anyway.
For a moment, it seemed, the sight of Harry Potter here in Brisbane looking like he’d been hit with a Slackjaw Jinx was enough to stun them all into silence. Their two talkative companions noticed, looked over, and were quickly rendered into the same state. It was so mortifying Harry now couldn’t talk for more than one reason. Ron and Hermione were looking anxiously at each other.
Then one of them laughed, and two more joined in. At least the rest didn’t, one of them tried to hiss something about being polite.
But it was still really loud, and something about it, he didn’t even know what, was simply unbearable. Harry was able to fight back the urge to yell or even throw a punch, but then he couldn’t stay. Without even trying to say anything, even to his two friends, he turned and walked, fast.
There were indignant exclamations, of course. That he wouldn’t have cared about. But then one of the men actually ran up to him and grabbed him by the arm.
Harry didn’t even think about it. Later, he would think it was a good thing he hadn’t happened to be holding his wand, because he didn’t know what would’ve happened. Instead he just threw that punch.
The man was middle aged and not that big; instantly his grip was gone and he was staggering back. But then one of the other men yelled, “Hey, you wanker!” and raised his wand.
“Accio Harry!” Hermione yelled. Before Harry could protest, she had a hold on both him and Ron, and she was Apparating the three of them away.
She’d taken them back to the bus stop. Harry looked around, was glad to see no one immediately around, and felt himself calm a little. Ron was looking anxiously at him, but he could see Harry was unharmed, and he too seemed to relax after a second.
That left only Hermione pacing around in a tiny circle after letting go of them murmuring, “This is bad, it’ll be all over the papers tomorrow, everyone will now think you’re crazy, my God, Harry, what happened back there?!”
She got louder on this last bit, turning to face him. She looked so upset Harry couldn’t even be mad at her. Especially not when she took a deep breath, pointed her wand at him, and muttered, "Mobilior,” and he while he still felt numb, he suspected he'd be able to talk now.
“What did happen, mate?” Ron asked. “I know that bloke was a rude git, but why’d you have to punch him?”
The question resounded in Harry’s head. He took another minute, also because it took that long to convince himself he could talk again. But then, even though he still couldn't feel that part of his jaw moving, he was saying, “I…don’t know. It all just happened so fast.”
“Hmmm,” Ron considered. “You know, this trip has been a bit hard on all of us, I think. And well, I don’t think your parents are going to want to talk to us much more, Hermione, so maybe we should just fly home early?”
Hermione, still walking around and around, sighed. “I don’t know. We probably should, but…I just don’t want to leave that quickly.”
“Then we won’t,” said Harry. He wasn’t going to force Hermione to walk away from her parents when he was still kind of hoping himself they’d come to their senses if they just hung around a little longer.
“Harry,” sighed Ron, “look, I know how you feel about parents. But honestly, I’m glad I didn’t go to see them today, not even because of what they might say to me, but because of what I might have said to them, and I don’t see why parents like them are worth staying here in a strange country where you’re having trouble-”
“I’m not having trouble!” Harry found himself snapping. Hermione had opened her mouth with an obvious intent to argue with him too, but she hastily shut it. “I just…I can handle myself. I don’t need to run and hide from people, and I don’t want to.”
Ron might have avoided Hermione’s angry words for now, but she was still giving him a pretty loaded look, and under it, he gave in, sighing, “All right, then. If you both want to stay, I suppose we’re staying. But don’t be surprised if my mum suddenly shows up at the hotel once that letter reaches her.”